LOS ANGELES — Leading up to the trade deadline, Los Angeles Lakers fourth-year forward Julius Randle continued to hear his name being mentioned as being possibly on the move.
However, the deadline came and went on Thursday afternoon with Randle remaining in Los Angeles at least through the rest of this season. In the team’s first action that against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the 23-year-old made once again made a major impact on the floor as one of the driving offensive forces for their undermanned roster following the trade of both Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. to the Cleveland Cavaliers in exchange for Isaiah Thomas and Channing Fyre.
Randle scored an efficient 17 points on 50 percent shooting from the field in a blowout 106-81 win over the shorthanded Thunder with both Carmelo Anthony (ankle) and Russell Westbrook (rest) out of the lineup. He had most of his offensive production in the paint imposing his will while bullying his way to the rim on several of his shot attempts.
It was a complete team effort that helped negate a strong individual outing for Paul George, who had a game-high 29 points. He had first five shots lead Thunder with 22 points in the first half with four 3-pointers. It saw Los Angeles finish with five players in double figures for a 25-point win, which was their largest margin of victory this season.
Performances like Thursday night have become the norm as late of Randle as he has posted 11 straight games in double figures while posting four double-doubles and shooting 50 percent or better from the field nine times over that stretch. It has encapsulated what has been another productive campaign as he’s averaging 14.2 points with 7.4 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game.
Beyond the constant chatter in the last couple of weeks before the trade deadline, Randle has dealt many individual obstacles to get to this point of the season. He began the year coming off the bench to having to work his way back into the starting lineup back in December.
The level of consistent play that Randle has displayed through all of these transitions and possible distractions has impressed head coach Luke Walton, which he believes has helped him push through the quicker in the growth process on the court.
“Julius has grown up a lot in the time that I have known him,” Walton said. “It’s another stepping stone for his growth as a professional. Trades, him not starting at the beginning of the year to me and him butting heads over it. Then him embracing this backup five role to now everyone now wanting to talk about wanting to trade him.
“With all that talk going on, he has been one of our steadier players. He has done everything we have asked of him. He is getting so much better at reading when to make a pass when the double team is coming, and when to score the ball. All of that is little signs of a player growing up and starting to really understand the NBA game and let the NBA game kind of slow down so he can do what he does well.”
Given what he has experienced this season and the three years in the NBA prior to that, it has helped Randle hone in his focus directly on the task of positively impact his team on the court in any fashion he can on every night.
“It’s just me going out there and doing what I’m supposed to do,” Randle said. “I’m being aggressive and physical. Talking on defense. Everything that I’m capable of doing. Just trying to do everything night on a consistent basis.”
With this latest hurdle out of the way, Randle can finally move forward and continue his promising growth on the court over the rest of the season.
Bob Garcia IV
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